Slava P is better at Twitter than J Cole is at making you fall asleep.
If you were anywhere near a computer, you probably noticed that both J.Cole and Chance the Rapper released free mixtapes yesterday. It was the rap game analog to the NBA’s Rookie/Sophomore game. One team consisted of a player who has seen relative success at the professional level with the help of an all-star coach — in spite of premature comparisons that likened him to legends like Nas and the ever-present criticism that he’s boring. The other team features a hotshot rookie looking to make a name for himself by representing the polar opposite of what his city has become (in)famous for in the last year: blending positivity and goodwill with inexperience and wide-eyed-wonder. The result is the first post-ad-lib and post-post-based rapper to capture our hearts.
Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap features the young Chicagoan waxing poetic about life, drugs, and everything in between. He does a fantastic job of acting as the instrument on all of the songs, using noises and at times almost scat singing to fill in the blanks while he raps in a Kendrick/Basedgod-esque stream of consciousness about being loved, staying positive, and touring with Troy from Community. His love for his rap-peers is seen in both his lyrics, where he shows appreciation to everyone from Fat Trel to Odd Future; to his features which see Twista, Action Bronson and the aforementioned Donald Glover contribute stand-out verses. Although he may not be the most skilled lyricist or the most in-tune singer, his personality can’t help but shine through the mixtape and almost force a smile onto your face.
J.Cole’s Truly Yours 2 has Jermaine doing what he’s become famous for: producing and rapping to various degrees of success. The same topics that he’s grown famous for are present to the point of becoming repetitious, but the delivery and flow has changed enough to keep you interested for all six songs [ed. note: define “interested“] . There are the pedantic-raps that touch on going to school to get out of poverty, conflicted feelings about women and drugs, and growing up in North Carolina. The guest features of 2 Chainz and Young Jeezy provide comedy and introspection respectively, which make Truly Yours feel as calculated as possible. Not a word is out of place in the rhymes and not a string is out of sync in the production, cementing Cole as one of the OCD-attentive artists to put out music.
In some ways, the qualities that make J.Cole unappealing to listeners will cause them to enjoy Chance The Rapper, or vice versa. Where Cole is prudent in his bars, Chance is careless and takes, well, chances. Where Chance is overtly giddy and times, Cole is sensible and serious. Are you allowed to enjoy both tapes? Absolutely, but it’s worth wondering what it is exactly that you enjoy about them.